Writing as a newspaper reporter for nearly forty years, many of Curtis Wilkie’s most treasured stories were set in the Deep South. Even though he covered eight presidential campaigns, spent a decade in the Middle East, and traveled to a number of conflicts abroad, his memory keeps turning home. His home state of Mississippi, more than others, seemed to him to have an inexhaustible supply of stories, tales full of drama and poignancy and humor.
As a journalist, he referred to Mississippi as “the gift that keeps on giving.” And for Wilkie Mississippi represented a veritable garden of rogues and racists, colorful personalities and outlandish politicians who managed to thrive among people otherwise kind and generous.The book collects pieces about several southerners: Ross Barnett at the Neshoba County Fair, the assassins Byron De La Beckwith and Sam Bowers, the tragicomic Billy Carter, Edwin Edwards and David Duke, rivals in the zany 1991 race for governor of Louisiana, Trent Lott, and Charles Evers.
Wilkie is known for stories that were reported deeply, with rich anecdotes, physical descriptions, and important background details. He writes about the well-known, such as the late Hunter S. Thompson, as well as more anonymous subjects whose stories have enduring interest. Wilkie brings a clear, perceptive eye to people and events both foreign and familiar, and his eloquent storytelling represents some of the best journalistic writing.
Curtis Wilkie speaks at History is Lunch from University Press of Mississippi on Vimeo.
Curtis Wilkie will talk about and sign copies of Assassins, Eccentrics, Politicians, and Other Persons of Interest at Reed's Gum Tree Bookstore on Friday, October 31, at noon.